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Crude and energy are on everybody’s minds, and we spent a lot of the Week Ahead parsing the details. Saudi Arabia came out with some comments about restricting their crude supplies to global markets, and we also have a detailed discussion on the SPR release in the US – when will it end, how will that impact crude prices, etc.
We also discussed Jackson Hole drama and the conclusions of Powell’s latest speech. Powell really didn’t say anything new, so why are equity markets reacting so dramatically?
And will we finally get some stimulus from China’s government? We’ve seen movement in tech stocks and some talks of the stimulus release, but we expect more after the US election.
1. Crude oil supply: Saudi/UAE cuts vs SPR
2. Jackson Hole Drama
3. China Stimulus (Finally?)
4. What’s ahead for next week?
This is the 31st episode of The Week Ahead, where experts talk about the week that just happened and what will most likely happen in the coming week.
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Tony Nash: Hi, and welcome to The Week Ahead. I’m Tony Nash. This week, we’re joined by Josh Young for the first time. So I want to thank Josh a lot for taking the time to join us. We’ve got Albert Marko and Samuel Rines. We’re lucky to have these three really valuable guests.
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We have a couple of key items this week. First is the crude oil supply. We had Saudi Arabia come out with some comments about restricting their supply. We also have some information on the SPR release in the US. So we’re going to ask Josh to leave the discussion on that.
Obviously, Jackson Hole drama. We’re probably the only people not leading the Jackson Hole today. But there are some meaningful things happening. There are some things happening that are not meaningful, and Sam will talk us through that.
And then when we finally get some China stimulus, I think that’s a real question and Albert will lead us on that.
So Josh, thanks again for joining us. You put out a tweet earlier today about the UAE supporting the Saudi comments on supply restrictions.
Can you talk us through that and help us understand why did that happen and why is that important?
Josh Young: So the UAE is supporting what the Saudis and other OPEC members are doing in terms
of threatening to cut production based on the combination of lower price, as well as their observation that there may be some paper market price manipulation and disconnect from what they’re seeing as the largest sort of combined suppliers in the oil market. And it’s particularly important that the UAE did this because what we saw at Bison was that most of the OPEC members were actually producing their maximum production capacity. And when you produce that maximum, the fields aren’t designed for that. It’s sort of like driving with your foot all the way down on the gas 100% of the time. You’ll break your car and you’ll crash.
And so a lot of these fields and their processing facilities, they’re just not designed to run at this. It’s a theoretical capacity that’s supposed to run for a week, a month, three months, not how they’ve been running it. And so there’s a lot of pressure on a lot of fields in many of the OPEC countries to actually reduce production slightly, so it’s not a surprise.
And we forecast that there would be some discussion of this given the high run rate versus their spare capacity. UAE in particular does have some remaining spare capacity, so what we’re seeing is cohesion within OPEC along with supply exhaustion of the other OPEC members. So it’s actually a pretty big thing, and I don’t think people are really picking up on it too much. Although maybe it’s why oils flat up a little.
TN: With the market down a lot today. Is this something that will start small incrementally and then it will accelerate? Meaning will they cut off a little bit of supply and then over time, maybe they take some fields down for maintenance or something like that, and then you start to see bigger chunks? Is that a possible scenario?
JY: Yeah. Honestly, I don’t know exactly what the path will be. I just know that they see it. We were joking before the show that, hey, maybe they’re following my Twitter feed and a few other people’s been observing these problems with the oil market and sort of weird trading patterns versus very strong physical demand and sort of very strong indicators.
And you see Saudi has a very high price relative to their benchmarks. Right. Their poster price, especially Asia, has been very high and usually that’s associated with price strength, and instead we’ve seen price weakness. So I think they’re very frustrated by that, but they may wait for some other things. So oil prices to fall a little more or some other sort of signal, maybe some small amount of demand destruction to the extent that happens. I think it’s a little hard, just given the Saudi relationship with the US and their sort of hope to maintain a lot of their alliance and their alignment with the west.
So I think they need sort of an additional catalyst. That being said, once they do it, they might… I don’t know if they start small and then go big, or they might just go big. They might just say, hey, we’re cutting by a million barrels a day. We increased by four over the last year and a half, and we’re fully supportive of the market. We might go a lot bigger if necessary, and there’s a disconnect and we’re going to support it.
TN: Okay, so how much of this is related to the SPR release? Is the SPR release having such an impact on prices that the Saudis are kind of fed up with it, or are there other factors?
JY: I actually don’t think it’s related to the SPR release almost at all. It does look like it’s a little related to some of the job owning around a potential agreement with Iran. And there’s a lot of disagreement in terms of how much oil production could come on if Iran came to an agreement with the west and sort of restarted. JCPOA. I’m in the camp that there’s not a lot left to produce and to export. You can see the amount is getting exported to India and various other countries. It’s up a lot from the last time this was floated, six or seven months ago. So whatever that capacity was for Iran to export, it’s less.
But I think it’s partly tied to that because Iran is a regional foe of Saudi Arabia and UAE and several other OPEC countries. So I think it’s a little bit of that. And I think it’s a lot related to the paper market trading patterns and just this really big weird disconnect where you see consumption fine and you see price down and it’s probably messing up your CI Futures forecasting a little because you’re probably tracking the consumption and the consumption is fine and the price is down. And it’s like. Okay. The inventories are down. This is weird. Again, excluding SPR, when the SPR stops releasing, obviously you’d expect price to recover substantially absent a million barrels a day of demand structure.
TN: Is that what you expect when the SPR release is done, that’s late October or something, right, do you expect prices to rise notably?
JY: Yeah. And I think like, the EIA forecast for shale production growth and sort of overall US oil production is just totally off base. They haven’t reset it, even though I think they had like a million barrels a day or something forecast for growth. And I think we’re at sort of 300,000 barrels a day so far this year and pretty flat. And the rig count is not up that much, and the frac stack count is definitely not up enough. So I think there’s sort of this disconnect.
There also in terms of this mark to model from a production perspective versus what’s actually happening in the field. And then you look at it’s not hard to see who the big producers are on the public side and then which ones had forecast growth and how much they’re actually achieving.
It’s really hard to reconcile their forecast for production growth versus what’s actually happening. And we’re really well situated for this because we spend most of our time we talk a lot about macro, we spend most of our time just like looking at individual companies and evaluating them and evaluating their securities. And so I think it’s part of why we’ve had such a powerful voice from a macro perspective, because we’re spending most of our time talking to these companies, looking at the rigs, looking at other services, figuring out the bottlenecks, and looking at some of the local stuff.
And when you do that and you step back and say, these numbers don’t make sense, and the companies are not tracking anywhere close to that. So back to SPR, that matters a lot because we’re not achieving the production that is being forecast. And it seems like a lot of market participants, or at least prognosticators, are just accepting as a given. That means that at whatever point… I’m not saying that the SPR release stops in October. They may continue it, but at whatever point, there is a finite amount of oil there. And we’re hitting tank bottom on some of those caverns that are releasing oil. At some point we just run out or we stop releasing and whatever that point is, absent significant demand destruction in a very deep recession, I think we see a lot higher oil prices.
TN: So in terms of the SPR release, you said, you talk about being empty, this sort of thing. How much do you think are you still thinking kind of October? Are you thinking they’re going to continue, but it would kind of have to trickle out, not at the same rate they had been releasing to date. Right? Because they are short on supply in the SPR.
JY: Yeah, I don’t think it has to trickle out. I think they could produce pretty hard for another month or so, and then it starts becoming more of an issue. But as you get down to it, looks like the numbers around 20% or so for any of the individual storage facilities, and for some of them, it might be a little higher, some of it might be a little lower. You start having issues with contamination as well as just physical deliverability, actually extracting it out.
And I think people take the numbers a little too seriously. And it’s very weird because no one trusts the government about certain things and then other things they just blindly say, oh yeah, it’s right. It’s from, okay, try to reconcile that.
And I think when you talk to engineers and some of the people that have worked on these facilities, their observation is that it’s reasonable to expect less deliverability. But there are enough of the facilities that aren’t drawn down enough that they should be able to supply. I don’t think we’re really hitting deliverability issues yet, but I think we’re likely to start to hit them, let’s say over the next month or so.
TN: Okay. So kind of when we take what you’re talking about and we look at, say, the potential impact of crude prices and refined product prices on inflation and energy prices generally on inflation, seems to me that you’re implying that towards the end of the year we could see those prices rise fairly quickly. Is that fair to say?
JY: It is. But at the same time, gasoline prices are still down a lot. These will start to tick back up the gasoline, which is a big consumer factor, as well as it gets felt through a number of different aspects of the economy. So at least for now, that’s not so much of a risk. But yeah, definitely. Sort of later on in the year, one could expect that.
And one other way to look at that is there’s been a divergence, and I’ve ignored these historically, to my detriment. There’s been a divergence in between the oil price and oil and gas equity prices and oil and gas equities have done a lot better over the last, let’s say, month and a half than oil prices have. And it looks like the equity market is telling us that the companies…
I mean, one, the companies are just very cheap, so I would think naturally they should rise. But the degree of divergence is so much that it seems like the equity market is making a forward looking bet on higher than strip prices in the future. And the forward market and the oil paper market is making the bet that it will be lower.
So there does seem to be a noteworthy divergence that could mean much higher inflation, like you’re saying, but it might also be that shelter matters a lot more and some other stuff matters a lot more, and it might really take diesel rising a lot and gasoline rising a lot to actually shift back into high inflation.
TN: Okay, is that divergence between only upstream companies or is it upstream midstream? Is it the whole stack? What is that divergence? What does that include?
JY: So I’m most focused on upstream. I don’t actually remember whether it also included the pipelines and services. But on the upstream, definitely both the large cap, the XLE ETF that includes Exxon and Chevron and stuff, as well as XOP, which includes sort of independence.
TN: Fantastic. Okay, Josh, that is excellent. Thank you so much for that. On that inflation topic,
let’s move to Jackson Hole. Of course, there’s a lot of breathy analysis of Jackson Hole over the last couple of days, and there will be over the weekend. But Sam Rines, who has the most valuable newsletter that I know of that’s available in America today, covered this week, and there’s a chart that he has in there looking at the meeting probabilities and also looking at the headlines that may or may not come out of Jackson Hole.
Sam, can you talk us through that? And what do you expect some of the conclusions to be?
Sam Rines: Yeah, so I thought it was really interesting. The Fed said nothing all that interesting today. I mean, it might have been a shock to people who weren’t paying attention, but the Fed just reiterated about, I don’t know, 99% of what it’s already said and set it in different words. And Powell said it basically eight and a half minutes. Right. That was the big change. All he did was take a bunch of time out of the speech, condense it and say, we’re not pivoting. They were never pivoting. The pivot was out of the picture at the last meeting. He made that pretty clear during that press conference.
So it’s really interesting to me that there was an actual equity reaction to it. It’s also really interesting
that there was relatively little reaction out of Currencies, relatively little reaction out of global interest rates and only a reaction on the equity front. It was like it was a shock to the equity guys, and everybody else was like, yeah, we need that. So I think that was really the big takeaway was it was a shock to the equity
markets, but everyone who had to be paying attention for the last six months was like, yeah, no big deal.
So Jackson Hole I think one of the things that I had said about it in the newsletter was, you’re not going
to learn anything new. And the only thing that we learned was that Paul was going to say absolutely nothing new and absolutely nothing interesting, and equity markets would still react to it in a pretty meaningful way. The idea that we were going to go to 4% and then stay at 4% was already priced in to Fed fund futures through the end of ’23.
So this whole idea that Powell somehow shocked the market. It’s one of the more entertaining things
today, in my opinion, is just that equity markets were so taken aback by it while you had three or four basis point moves in interest rates across the US curve. And just a big shrug.
To me, the big news today was probably out of Europe where people were potentially discussing 75 basis
point hike from the ECB. The Czech Republic doing an emergency meeting on energy.
There were some more interesting things that happened in the market today, but I think I overlooked in favor of an eight and a half minute speech by somebody just re iterating what he had already said 900 times.
TN: So let’s talk about Europe a little bit, because that’s interesting. I mean, Europe is in a world of hurt, right? We’ve talked about that several times. So what do you think the path for the ECB is from here? Do you think they’re going to hike 75?
SR: No, I think they hike 50. I think 75 is probably a little too aggressive for them. I mean, we were talking about ten basis points three months ago as being something that we thought would be interesting. And now the idea of floating 75, I think that was mostly to defend the currency, right. They knew that there was a known that you were going into Jackson Hole and if you front ran that with the leak that you might go 75, you’re going to defend your currency somewhat against a potentially hawkish Powell. It’s pretty straightforward in terms of defending a Euro at one. So I think that was basically the case. Call 50, maybe 75, I don’t really care. They’re going to hike, and they’re going to hike in a pretty meaningful way, particularly for a place that is already screwed. Right into the recession, right? Yeah.
I think it’s a pretty interesting opportunity to go long the long-end booned and short the Euro. Yeah, we’ve talked about that a few times here and that’s great.
TN: Okay, guys, what else do you have on the, Albert, Josh? Are you guys hearing anything else on US economy or Jackson Hole?
Albert Marko: Sam mentioned about the equity reaction. How much of that is really because
of the low liquidity right now? There’s no traders really out there, no volume out there really, at the moment.
SR: But liquidity works both ways, right? If you have low liquidity, you can rip it. It can get ripped either way. And I think what you saw immediately following his speech was you saw a leg down, then you saw 1% leg down, 1% leg back up, and then a two to 3% leg down, depending on what industry you want to look at. Right. So liquidity works.
AM: But you’re right, nothing was new. That rally that they launched for the weeks prior to that, you expected them to go hawkish after that, what are they going to do? Go dovish and go to 4400, 4500 and look ridiculous? Nothing new came out of this. He’s right about that.
SR: I think there was an opportunity for them to potentially begin to say, hey, we’re going 50s and then 25s, and then we’re going to pause at 4% and we’re going to see how much we’ve ruined everything. There was the potential for that.
But then when you get STIs, you get financial conditions ripping higher, you have meme stocks
coming back into the news. Yeah. The Fed is not going to consider that type policy. If anything, they’re going to look at that and say, hey, it looks like short term neutral is a little bit higher than we thought it was. We need to move a little further and then begin to pause.
So if anything, the equity rally going into Jackson Hole was more problematic for equity markets than people thought.
TN: So do you think some of those 25 expected 25s could be 50s in say, Q4?
SR: I don’t care if they’re going to get to four and then they’re going to stop and they’re going to get to four before they’re going to get to four around December and then they’re going to see what kind of carnage they’ve done. If they haven’t done enough carnage, they go higher. Pause there.
TN: That makes sense.
SR: The pace is probably I would say the pace kind of matters for shock and all purposes,
but in general the pace is kind of meh.
The end is really important and the length of staying at the peak is what is truly the most important thing here. If they’re there for a year and a half and they don’t care about a recession, that’s one thing. If they’re there for six months and cut by 75 because we’re in a recession, then go back, that’s a different thing. But I really don’t care how quickly they get there.
TN: Okay. And the run up to the midterms has no bearing on what the Fed is going to do, is that?
TN: None. Okay. I just hear that from time to time. Well, the midterms are coming, so the Fed
is going to just relax for a few months.
AM: You hear that mainly from me. From my perspective, it’s always been like when I say Fed, I want to say Treasury and Fed together because of Yellen. But sometimes they have those concerns. Like they don’t want the current administration looking bad. I had a midterm. Yeah.
SR: That should sail.
AM: Well, that should sail because just because of the ridiculous antics that they pulled recently with inflation, it’s being ridiculous. So you’re right, that ship has sailed.
TN: Well, I mean, are they ridiculous or not? I mean, inflation has definitely risen and they’ve definitely taken action to offset inflation.
AM: Yeah, they’ve done that in a vacuum because China is not online yet and Europe is a complete disaster at the moment. Right. And we haven’t had a real event to drive oil up into like the 130s, 140s again. God forbid we have a hurricane in like a week that goes into the Gulf of Mexico while Grandhome is sending out letters to all the refiners saying you can’t export anything anymore. There’s plenty of room.
TN: She’s encouraging them. She’s not requiring them. Right?
AM: Yeah. Okay, well, we’ll see about that.
JY: She’s making them an offer that they can’t refuse. So my general take was just like, I’m not a Fed watcher. My general take was kind of stagflation coming out of this. Right? It’s like policy that can’t get too extreme to really like they’re going to try to torch the economy, but they’re also not going to go to a 15 interest rate or anything like that. They’re going to go to a four or whatever, and maybe they’ll go slower or faster.
I think there’s some political motivation there. So maybe they go slower and then they turn on higher after the election. Maybe not. Unclear. Kind of doesn’t matter from my perspective.
What does matter is, like Albert was saying, I think there’s a decent shot that we end up with higher oil prices. We end up with other factors. So, like, there are various drivers that are pushing, especially in the rental market, shelter higher, not lower. And so with persistent inflation in the biggest household bucket, and then with a likely move higher this winter in oil and diesel and probably also gasoline, it’s going to look pretty ugly. And if you have them stopping kind of at four, maybe going to let’s say five or something, but inflation is at ten or nine or whatever, right? Some directionally, really high number. At some point, you just start ticking in where you have negative real and positive nominal, and that’s just hard to break unless they go a lot higher. But if the economy is sucking, that makes it really hard. So that was my sort of general take from what they were saying.
AM: I wanted to come back and ask you about the SPR just real quick about the oil in it. Some of it has got to have degradation, and there’s a lot less barrels there that they can actually release. They might have to stop in end of September. You might start seeing oil rise even before October.
JY: Yes. My base case is not that. My base case is there’s a little bit of contamination, but they’ve managed to reduce that either by not pulling from the caverns that have had contamination historically or by treating the oil or something. My base case is that the oil there is extractable, except they can’t get the last barrel because there’s a certain percentage that needs to be there for the caverns to continue to be
functional, and they’re not going to destroy the storage caverns just to get the last oil. That’s my base case.
But I think there’s a reasonable expectation that there’s less oil there, given the history of contamination and the issues. And they did have a big draw this past week, but prior to that, they had multiple smaller draws. There’s also the crude quality thing, which I’m not really in the crude quality matters camp. I think there’s sort of this bizarre notion that crude, which is mostly fungible, really matters. It did to some extent before you could export oil and before various changes in US refineries.
At this point, it matters a little in terms of getting a couple of dollars, more or less per barrel, depending on transport cost. But I don’t think that’s really affecting the global balance. And I think it’s sort of like
a magic trick, right? It’s like focus on this and not like the thing that actually matters.
And so I’m glad you didn’t bring it up. I guess I brought it up and I just don’t think it matters, though.
TN: Great. Thanks for that, guys. Okay, let’s move on to China. Albert, over the past a week or so, we’ve seen a number of stories saying that China fiscal stimulus may finally be coming.
And we’ve seen some movements, say, in China, tech stocks, these sorts of things. So can you talk us through what you’re seeing with China in the stimulus camping? And why now? They’ve waited so long. Why would it be coming now?
AM: Well, it’s coming out because the policy and the dollar is so high, the Chinese economy is struggling at the moment and they come out with these mini stimulus announcements and there were shots across the bow. I mean, the worst thing right now that the Fed can happen is China stimulating commodities ripping at the moment, that would be absolutely atrocious. Inflation will start going higher and we seen like Josh said a 10% CPI prints coming out and they’re going to be forced to do 75 basis points again. It would throw a wrench in a lot of things and it’s not good if they stimulate it right now.
But after the election, after the US election, they can do what they want to do because they have their own interests at heart at the moment. They cannot let the Chinese economy fall to a point where they can’t recover in the near future.
TN: So what do you see coming out in the near term? This $229 billion bond sale? That was a start, right? So do you see more than that or dramatically more than that coming out? And how quickly do you expect?
AM: Yeah, I expect by January that will have a significant stimulus package coming out. This little SEC audit deal was basically a gift to delay it as much as long as they can.
TN: Okay, very good. And then so you don’t expect a significant amount of Chinese stimulus before, say, December or something like that?
AM: Yeah, before December.
TN: Okay. Sam, what do you think about that? Do you think China stimulus hurts the US?
SR: I really don’t think that the Fed would care or go 75. I mean, it’s commodities, right? And the Fed tries to ignore commodities as much as possible. So yeah, you’re going to get a rip in oil because there’s not enough oil to go around, there’s not enough oil for China and it’s going to coincide with the end of the SPR release. So you’re kind of screwed there.
Copper, all that stuff goes higher. I don’t think the Fed cares. The Fed is going to try to cut that out. Then they’ll pivot core and you’re going to have a really weak Renminbi and you’re going to have probably at least a little bit of a pass through to US consumers on the goods front as you get goods to flow back.
So you could actually see kind of an interesting offset where core goods kind of begins to decline on a Chinese reopen. Commodities rip and you get the, hey look, it looks like core is moving back towards two. We’re not going to have to raise rates as much because we don’t really care about headline, we can’t control oil, we can’t pump more oil.
So I think it’s a weird kind of catch 22 where the Fed is going to have to pivot from talking about headline to talking about core. But I think they’re happy to do it as long as that core is really moving lower because I think they know they’re screwed on energy. They’re in so much trouble in energy, commodities, et cetera, that there’s nothing they can do.
TN: I think you’re right and we’ve needed a weaker CNY for about six, seven months now. So I think it’s about time and we’ve started to see it move, but I think we’ll start to see it move more dramatically soon.
Okay, guys, let’s start looking at the week ahead. Just a quick kind of round the horn of what do you think, Albert, what are you looking for for the coming week?
AM: I’m looking for a little bit of a rally back off these loads here, try to bring it back to 4200. I just personally think that the economy is in trouble, they’re delaying a recession as long as they possibly can, but it’s coming. So I think a little bit of a pump next week and then probably heading back down into September.
TN: Okay, Sam?
SR: Oh, I agree with Albert there. I think the knee jerk reaction today to the Fed is going to be unloud as people begin to look at what really went on in rates. What’s going on in FX. The concentration should be on what’s going on in Europe. And the flow versus the stock problem that nobody seems to be able to figure out. Which is you can stock as much gas as you want in a bunch of caverns in Europe. If you don’t have flow over the winter, your stocks really don’t matter. I think there’s going to be a little bit of a realization that stock versus flow matter more than stocks and at some point you’ve got to figure that one out. So that’s what I’m watching.
TN: Interesting. Okay, Josh, what are you looking for in the week ahead?
JY: Just more information on oil demand. So we’re starting to see reports of surprise, higher oil demand than people would have thought, which coincide with actual reports of oil demand when you look at the raw data. So that should be interesting to see sort of how that gets processed and then sort of how oil price may or may not get suppressed. Again, just as we get more good data points, price should go higher, but it doesn’t seem to want you for now.
TN: Very good. From the energy capital of the Universe in Houston, Texas, Josh Young, Sam Rines.
Guys. Thanks very much. Albert, thanks. Have a great day, have a great weekend and a great week ahead.